While manufacturer coupons aren't available for fresh meat, there are still plenty of ways to save on this protein-rich food. Use these easy tips to save big on your next grocery shopping trip.
Look for On-Package Coupons and Markdowns
Look for cuts of meat that have coupons or stickers on them. They usually come in one of two forms:
- Instant coupons: These are good for a dollar-off amount the meat with the attached coupon (make sure the cashier removes and scans it when you check out).
- On-package markdowns: These are usually indicated by a sticker on the package noting a lower overall price or lower price per pound.
These deals are usually on cuts of meat that are soon approaching their sell-by date, so plan to use them quickly or freeze them.
Buy Meat in Bulk
Another easy option that can save you both money and time is to buy meat in bulk. In standard grocery stores, buy the family-size or larger packages of meat and poultry. While you'll pay more up front than buying a smaller package, you can get often a significantly lower price per pound.
Warehouse Bulk Shopping
Save money if you purchase bulk packages or fresh or frozen meats at warehouse clubs like Sam's or BJ's. Divide the meat up into smaller portions when you get home, repackage them in plastic wrap, and freeze to grab easily for meals.
Consider Buying Directly From Farmers
Buying meat directly from local cattle, hog, or chicken farmers in your area may help you save. Normally you'll be buying larger quantities of meat, such as a quarter, half, or whole beef, so you'll need freezer space, such as separate upright or chest freezer, to store it in.
Determine Your Price
To make sure you're saving and getting the desired price, make sure to include both the price per pound and the price for processing the meat, which vary depending on the supplier and processor. Some processing shops also offer bundle packs where you can get several types of meat for one fee, which is typically lower than buying the individual items.
Buy Lower-Priced Cuts
Some of the cheapest cuts of meat can taste just as delicious as their more expensive counterparts as long as they are cooked properly. Some meat cuts to consider:
- Sirloin steak or roasts: This either requires a marinade to break down the meat or braising at lower temperatures for a longer period, but the result is tender, delicious meat.
- Round steak: This is a tougher cut of beef that cooks beautifully when cut thin and tenderized. Save money by buying the non-tenderized cuts and tenderizing yourself at home.
- Chuck-eye: This is a cheaper cut of steak that typically needs to be cooked a little longer than t-bones or rib streaks, but turns out well with a little additional cooking time. It's also a good candidate for marinades.
- Flank steak: Flat steaks like flank are best with a marinade; their thin cut makes them perfect for dishes like fajitas.
- Chicken thighs and chicken quarters: These are both less expensive cuts of chicken that can be baked, slow cooked, or grilled.
- Whole chicken: Buying a whole chicken gives plenty of options and saves money. Use the carcass to make inexpensive chicken stock.
- Pork shoulder: A pork shoulder makes a good alternative to pork loin and should be cooked low and slow for best results.
- Soup bones: Soup bones may have more meat than you realize and add plenty of flavor to your recipes.
Stock Up Around Holiday Sales
There are several times of year when certain meats go on sale. For example, Thanksgiving always features rock-bottom deals from grocers on turkeys; Christmas is the prime time for scoring cheap whole or half hams. During these times, buy extras of these large cuts to have on hand throughout the year.
Buy According to Weekly Sales
Most grocery stores feature weekly sales on specific meat products. Always buy meats when they are sale-priced to get the most for your money. There are a couple of tricks to help when doing this:
- When you start out buying meal on sale, instead of making your meal plan and then going shopping, see what's on sale and plan your meals around the sale-priced meats.
- Buy enough of the meat products you want when they are on sale to last you until the next good sale - which may be several weeks. Each week you'll likely change what you buy based on what's available at the best price, but soon you'll have a stockpile of different meats in your freezer that you were able to get at the lowest prices.
- Keep a price book and keep track of the price per pound so you know when you're getting the best deals.
Shop Discount Stores
Shopping at food stores that have fewer frills (such as Aldi) often yields overall lower prices on the meat selections. The only caveat is that the meat isn't packaged fresh in-store; it's delivered already packaged - either fresh or frozen.
When using ground meats like beef, pork, chicken, or sausage, consider stretching them with some non-meat additions. Stretch things like meatballs and meatloaf with oats or breadcrumbs in place of some meat; use less meat and more veggies, potatoes, and pastas in casseroles and hot dishes. You can also try a few vegetarian meals to stretch your weekly meats.
Eat Well and Save
Armed with the right tips and tricks, you can eat delicious meats and still save. Use your knowledge and feel great about your grocery budget.